Blast from the past

You may have read in the newspapers how Judge Robin Tolson QC refused the wife of a millionaire mushroom-farmer a divorce because his behaviour towards her had not been unreasonable.
Mrs Tini Owens had outlined her husband’s intolerable conduct, saying it included criticising her in front of their housekeeper and making her pick up bits of cardboard in the garden. They had also had a row in an airport shop in Cancun and a silent meal in local pub, while he made “stinging remarks” during another meal with a friend.
Judge Tolson described the farmer’s attitude as “old school” and described her allegations against her husband as “exaggerated” and “at best flimsy”, claiming they were “minor altercations of a kind to be expected in a marriage” and “an exercise in scraping the barrel”.
Mrs Owens’ case is currently before the Court of Appeal.
Old Grumpy has some sympathy with the lady because I, too, have witnessed the strange behaviour of Tolson QC who represented Johnny Allen Mirehouse when the Adjudication Panel for Wales (APW) considered the Ombudsman’s finding that he had breached the Code of Conduct by failing to declare an interest when the controversial “homes for locals” policy was debated at a meeting of the National Park committee.
As the complainant, I was present at Lamphey Court for the two day hearing and was somewhat taken aback by Tolson QC’s attempt to turn it into a trial of my conduct rather than that of his client.
It was understandable that the QC should do whatever he felt necessary to defend his client, but things took an unexpected turn when the supposedly impartial chairman of the tribunal – Cardiff solicitor Peter Davies –  went off down the same track.
It was at that point that I concluded that there was something seriously corrupt about the whole business.
However, that was just my impression and we have to rely on the official report for proof.
The APW adopts a two-stage procedure.
During the first, known as the preliminary hearing, the parties (Ombudsman, defence team and the APW) get together to narrow down the areas of disagreement with a view to avoid wasting time at the hearing proper.

This took place at the Halliwell Centre in Carmarthen on 7 March 2007 when the Ombudsman, APW and Johnny’s legal team ( Cardiff solicitor Robin Havard) whittled the case down to the following disputed facts:

1. Did Councillor Allen-Mirehouse own any land that was capable of being developed when he participated in the relevant meetings of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority?

2. What was the likely impact of the introduction of Policy 47 on land values in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park?

As the Ombudsman’s case against Cllr Allen-Mirehouse was predicated on the ownership of such land it must have been Johnny’s lawyers who were disputing whether he owned land capable of being developed.

Tolson QC was not present at this preliminary hearing and I have reason to believe he was engaged some time later.
And he seems to have decided that this denial of land ownership wouldn’t stand up in face of the evidence because, soon after the main tribunal opened for business, there was an admission that Johnny did own such land.

Indeed the tribunal report records: “5.1.2 Mr Tolson said that it had never [my emphasis] been disputed that Councillor Allen-Mirehouse owned land that was capable of being developed when he participated in the relevant meetings of the National Park Authority.”

This was a straight up fib because it was one of the disputed facts that emerged from the preliminary hearing. 

Strangely, the independent chairman who had been present at the preliminary hearing in the Halliwell Centre when it had been agreed that Johnny’s ownership of development land was a “disputed fact” made no attempt to challenge this obvious untruth.

And:

4.3 The Case Tribunal found the following in respect of the disputed facts:

4.3.1 Councillor Allen-Mirehouse did own land that was capable of being developed when he participated in meetings of the Authority.

Of course you might ask why, if it “had never been disputed that Cllr Allen-Mirehouse owned land etc” the tribunal needed to find in respect of the disputed facts that he did.

From the witness stand, the Ombudsman’s investigator said that this admission of ownership was conclusive of the matter.
If Cllr Allen Mirehouse did indeed own land that could be affected by the policy, he had, by definition, a declarable interest, and had therefore breached the code.

By some thought process that defies logic, the tribunal found

5.3.2   There was no such interest to disclose.

As Johnny said during the famous “Pugh” meeting on 13 December 2013 “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story”. (Webcast at 1hr 24 mins)